Ambassador Peter F. Romero
Acting Assistant Secretary
Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs
Statement before the Subcommittee on Criminal Justice, Drug Policy,
and Human Resources
House Committee on Government Reform
February 15, 2000
About six months ago, President Pastrana announced Plan Colombia, a $7.5 billion program to overcome his country's inter-locking national challenges. President Pastrana said Colombia would provide $4 billion of its scarce resources to the Plan and he called on the international community to provide the remaining $3.5 billion. President Pastrana's Plan focuses on five key areas: advancing the peace process; improving the economy; combating narcotics; reforming the judicial system and promoting human rights; and supporting democratization and social development.
Most of us agree, I believe, that it is in America's interest to support Plan Colombia. I want to sketch out today why and how we have structured the U.S. assistance package. The following considerations shaped the package:
President Pastrana's 4-year tenure offers the international community a golden opportunity to help Colombia resolve its problems. We should not squander the opportunity. President Pastrana's commitment to achieve peace is indisputable. He has also demonstrated his willingness to root out narcotics trafficking while remaining firmly committed to democratic values and principles.
- We wanted to support those needs of Colombia's that coincide with our own interests in combating drug trafficking, protecting human rights, and promoting good governance;
- We wanted to help the GOC address key needs that it could not readily finance by itself; and
- We wanted to fund GOC programs of interest to us that were unlikely to receive support from other international donors.
Dealing with our own national narcotics problem must include helping Colombia dismantle the drug networks operating on its soil. The bulk of the cocaine, and an increasing percentage of heroin, consumed in the United States comes from Colombia. We have all seen how these drugs have poisoned entire American communities, shattering families and destroying lives.
Colombia has also paid a high price. Narcotics have corrupted its institutions, tainting even the presidency of former President Samper. Today, President Pastrana is battling to wrest control from narco interests large swaths of Colombia that remain beyond the GOC's control, and are incubators of lawlessness, violence, and narco-corruption. Increasingly, powerfully armed left-wing guerrillas and right-wing militias are fighting each other for control of prime coca and opium poppy-producing terrain.
Our counternarcotics package for Colombia was designed with the benefit of knowing what has worked in Bolivia and Peru. With U.S.Government assistance, both countries have been able to reduce dramatically coca production. This was achieved through successful efforts to reestablish government control and bring government services to former drug producing safehavens. Both Bolivia and Peru combined vigorous eradication and interdiction efforts with incentives for small farmers to switch to legal crops. We aim to help Colombia accomplish a similar record of success.
Colombia must reestablish its authority over narcotics producing "sanctuaries." Bogota cannot successfully resolve its many socio-economic problems, instill respect for human rights, or achieve peace while these "sanctuaries" flourish and while illegal armed groups in them earn hundreds of millions of dollars from the drug trade. Colombia must break the power of these narco-financed groups, whether they are left-wing guerrillas or right-wing militias. Any comprehensive solution to Colombia's problems must include the reestablishment of government authority over these lawless areas.
To achieve this, we propose to give the GOC the air mobility to reach deep into these lawless zones and establish a secure environment for GOC officials and NGOs to extend basic services to these long deprived areas. We will provide assistance to help small farmers move from growing illegal crops to legal sources of income. We will also provide assistance to strengthen local governments and promote human rights. Please note that in addition to our very strong counterdrug package, we have included approximately $271 million to promote structural reforms in the administration of justice, human rights, and democratization sectors, and to assist internally displaced persons.